1904 GENESIS Oris is founded by Paul Cattin (right) and Georges Christian in the Swiss town of Hölstein. They buy the recently closed Lohner & Co watch factory, and on June 1, 1904 the two men enter into a contract with the local mayor. They name their new watch company Oris, after a nearby brook.
1906 EARLY GROWTH The firm opens an assembly plant and second factory in the nearby town of Holderbank.
1911 A PERIOD OF EXPANSION By 1911, Oris has become the largest employer in Hölstein, with over 300 workers. To entice more watchmakers, it builds houses and apartments for its staff. Oris’s success continues, and it expands so that by 1929 it has factories in Hölstein (1904), Holderbank (1906), Como (1908), Courgenay (1916), Herbetswil (1925) and Ziefen (1925).
1925 THE FIRST ORIS WRISTWATCHES Oris expands further still, opening a factory in Ziefen and its own electroplating factory in Herbetswil. The company begins to fit bracelet buckles to its pocket watches, thereby transforming them into fully-fledged wristwatches.
1927 THE END OF AN ERA Company co-founder Georges Christian dies and Jacques-David LeCoultre becomes President of the Board of Directors. Jacques-David LeCoultre was Antoine LeCoultre’s grandson and the man who merged with Edmond Jaeger to form Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1937.
1928 THE NEXT GENERATION Following the death of Georges Christian a year earlier, Oscar Herzog, Christian's brother-in-law, takes over as General Manager, a position he will hold for 43 years. From 1928 to 1971 Herzog steers Oris through the many watchmaking highs and lows of the 20th century.
1934 THE SWISS WATCH STATUTE Oscar Herzog’s ambitions to improve the quality of his company’s products run into trouble when, on March 12, 1934, the Swiss government introduces the so-called ‘Watch Statute’, a peculiar law designed to protect and regulate the industry that prevents watch companies from introducing new technologies without permission. Until that point, Oris had been using pin-lever escapement (Roskopf escapement) movements, which were claimed to be less accurate than the lever escapements used by some of Oris’s competitors, who had adopted such technology before the law was passed.
1936 THE EXPANSION CONTINUES Oris opens its own dial factory in Biel/Bienne.
1938 THE FIRST ORIS ESCAPEMENTS As an integrated manufacturer Oris produces its own watch escapements. The company employs many highly skilled watchmakers, becoming one of the first employers to offer equal opportunities to both men and women.
1938 THE BIRTH OF THE BIG CROWN Oris introduces its first watch for pilots, which has a distinguishing big crown and a Pointer Calendar function. The collection takes its name from the watch’s oversized crown, employed as an aid to pilots who adjust their watches while wearing leather gloves. In time, aviation becomes one of the four ‘Oris Worlds’.
1940 ALARM CLOCKS During the Second World War, Oris’s distribution network beyond Switzerland is reduced significantly. To keep business alive, the company starts manufacturing alarm clocks. The famous eight-day power reserve model is launched in 1949.
1945 AWARDS FOR ACCURACY Oris is awarded the first of over 200 distinctions for a pin-lever movement from the Bureau Officiel de Contrôle de la Marche des Montres in Le Locle, proving that a pin-lever movement is as accurate as a lever escapement.
1946 ORIS’S INFLUENCE SPREADS During the post-war expansion, Oris runs a fleet of buses shuttling employees to its company headquarters in Hölstein from towns as far as 25 km away.
1949 THE 8-DAY CLOCK During the Second World War, the company’s output is limited to around 200,000 pieces a year. Oris keeps business alive by manufacturing alarm clocks, which leads to the landmark eight-day power reserve model launched at the end of the 1940s.
1952 THE FIRST ORIS AUTOMATIC MOVEMENT Oris launches its first automatic watch with a power reserve indicator. It’s powered by Oris’s highly accurate Calibre 601.
1956 FREE AT LAST The company’s General Manager Oscar Herzog hires a young lawyer by the name of Dr Rolf Portmann. Rolf spends his first 10 years at the company campaigning to reverse the so-called ‘Watch Statue’ that prevents Oris from using lever escapements in its watch movements. In 1966, he succeeds, earning his place in Swiss watch history.
1965 A LEGEND COMES TO LIFE Oris launches a state-of-the-art diver’s watch with a unidirectional rotating bezel with timer scale, bold, luminescent numerals, and water resistance to 100m. The watch will be re-released 50 years later, becoming one of the company’s most successful launches.
1967 THE FIRST ORIS CHRONOMETER The Swiss ‘Watch Statute’ introduced in 1934 prevents Oris introducing new technology for more than 30 years, but in 1966, the statute is reversed. Just two years later, the company unveils Oris Calibre 652 (which uses a superior lever escapement). It is awarded full chronometer certification – the highest distinction for accuracy – by the Observatoire Astronomique et Chronométrique.
1969 THE GOLDEN YEARS By the end of the 1960s, Oris is one of the 10 largest watch companies in the world. It employs 800 people across a network of factories in Hölstein and beyond, and produces 1.2 million watches and clocks a year. The company develops its own tools and machinery, and even runs an apprenticeship scheme, training 40 engineers and watchmakers every year.